Friday, February 8, 2013

Review: Penelope by Anya Wylde (4 stars, historical)




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Thoughts After Reading:
I have been eagerly anticipating Anya Wylde's second novel, Penelope, ever since I learned it was to feature a country bumpkin of a heroine and her pet goat. I greatly enjoyed reading Wylde's debut novel, and hoped the second one would be just as fun. The resulting story was a disappointment in a few respects, but remained gratifying in others. Specifically, I would not have been impressed with the novel if it had been written as a straightforward historical romance. With only a half-hearted adherence to propriety, a vocabulary that included the word "ginormous," and a suspiciously knowledgeable physician... the novel did not scream "historical accuracy" to me. Likewise, while there were several tender moments between the protagonists... those moments seemed to be the exception rather than the rule. The majority of the romance plot consisted of the hero and heroine fighting with each other frequently, repressing their mutual attraction until the end. It really would not be fair to judge the novel by typical standards, however, because Wylde's books are first and foremost comedies. And - as a lighthearted and rather farcical comedy, a "madcap regency romance" if you will - Penelope is a resounding success. The firmly tongue-in-cheek storyline follows the bumbling heroine through her misadventures in London. The silly events, along with the outlandish metaphors Wylde frequently employs, keeps the reader alternatively grinning or chuckling from beginning to end. The final resolution is also satisfying, with a surprisingly endearing proposal and a tidy HEA.

The primary ensemble of characters in the novel consist of the heroine, the hero, the hero's sister, and the hero's mother. And, of course, the heroine's goat. The storyline opens with the heroine arriving at the hero's house. The hero's mother was a close friend of the heroine's deceased mother, and has invited the heroine to have a London season. The heroine is feeling significant pressure to marry, because her unkind stepmother has made it clear that if the heroine does not find a husband during the season she will be forced to wed an old lord. My first impression of the heroine was that she is a rather adorable young woman, what with her initially bedraggled appearance, her propensity to befriend highwaymen named Jimmy, and her caring nature that ranges from looking after her pet to having one-way conversations with a portrait of her mother. With that being said, her frequent bouts of tears and utter inability to act with more than a smidgen of sense led me quickly to be somewhat somewhat sympathetic with the hero. Don't misunderstand me, the hero is still an ass for most of the novel - treating the heroine with disdain, calling her a doxy repetitively, and acting childishly with his family members - but I can at least understand from where some of his feelings originate. The hero dislikes the heroine thoroughly from the first time he walks into the room and she mistakenly yanks his ear. He dislikes her lack of refined manners, he dislikes the commotion she invariably causes, and he especially dislikes the subconscious attraction he feels for her. The hero wants the heroine to leave immediately, and much of plot is spent with the hero trying to get the heroine to leave and the heroine stubbornly remaining. Whenever the two protagonists are not fighting, the heroine is often trying to improve her look and manners by learning from a cross-dressing gay modiste (who turns out not to be gay)... often with unsuccessful results. The hero's family add some extra comedy to the dialogue, with a sister that generally thinks the heroine's eccentricities are a great lark and a mother who tries to provide support for the heroine. Much of the continued humor occurs at the heroine's expense, so it is quite nice when she finally gets her very triumphant happy ending.

I am a reader who enjoys a moderate amount of adherence to the historical era and a strongly authentic developing romance, both elements that prevent me from describing Anya Wylde's Penelope as a flawless piece of writing. But I am also a huge fan of anything that makes me smile or laugh, and it is in that aspect that the novel truly excels. It is great fun to follow, sympathize, and be happy for Penelope as she haphazardly experiences London and eventually wins the affections of her true love. Wylde's Penelope is a story I would recommend to anyone looking for a comical diversion on a rainy day.

Note: I received a free review copy of this novel by the author.

8 comments:

  1. I have to say that this story sounds interesting, Chris. I hope that might get a chance to read this story one day. I still haven't read the first book, which I do have. Oh my ever growing TBR list. So, do you have plan for next week.

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    1. Lol, those TBR lists can seem never-ending. Yea, you should give it a try after reading Wylde's first one - maybe you'll win it in the giveaway :). I don't think I'll have time to read anything new before Friday - so I'll probably post one of the reviews I have in reserve. But I'm really looking forward to reading Manda Collins' new release as soon as possible.

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    2. At least you have a reserve review. I don't have any. Usually, I just take a book I remember pretty well and write about that one. Happen a couple of times last year. I need to get to book 2 of Manda's book. I'm currently reading Elizabeth Hoyt. I think the next one I will read is Shana Galen. Love her books. Plus, I love the red dress on her new book. I hope you have a great week.

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    3. Maybe so, but you publish posts much more frequently than I do. The amount I read varies significantly, so I've found it makes the most sense to have a constant rate of posts rather than posting 3 reviews one week and zero the next. I use to publish two reviews a week, until I ran out of "reserve" posts - then I lowered it to once a week ;).

      I loved Manda Collin's second book (my review, if you'd like to read it) and I love wallflower plots... so I have high hopes for the final installment. I've heard quite a bit about Hoyt and Galen too, so I hope you enjoy them. And thank you, I hope you have a great week too :).

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    4. Shana is fantastic! I love her. I like wallflower plots too. True, but I don't have homework or test to study for. So that makes it a lot easier to get a book done. Plus, I tend to read two books at once. Sometimes it works on sometimes not so much. Book length plays a huge part in my post. I also read novellas. Good luck. :D

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    5. Very true :), college can take a toll on my reading time. Haha - Why do you read two books at the same time?! I think I would confuse the two plotlines together. I don't even like to fall asleep before finishing a book because I don't remember it as well the next day.
      Also - thanks for the well-wishes. I just need to catch up on some work this week. And also make time to participate in a Valentine's blog hop ;).

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    6. So, I can get through them quicker. Plus, I take notes, so I don't get to confuse. On top of that I have a pretty good memory.

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